Gathering my people: movement-based relational organizing to dismantle white supremacy

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2021

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Abstract

Political organizing—the work of building relationships and capacity to execute collective action and bring about social change—is an embodied practice. It is learned by doing as people meet, in person or virtually, to hone skills, grow in relationship, develop leadership, and engage in intentional action to shift power. The long hours and commitment that organizers dedicate to building and executing campaigns requires intense bodily engagement. The exhaustion, concern, hope, and elation involved all fall on the body. Race, class, gender, and nationality differences also mark bodies, impacting who organizes, from what standpoint, and with what stakes, as well as the issues and urgencies evoked. While somatic and contemplative practices, which foreground the internal experience of the body and the information it holds, are being taught as organizing competencies by groups such as Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity and generative somatics, the relevance of embodiment to organizing is not widely accepted or known. Paying close attention to the body can strengthen and deepen organizing work by providing insight into how to ground in presence in order to build relationships and earn trust, to expand political education through embodied proposals, to better assess the balance of power within and beyond campaigns by considering who is moving and how, and to provide resources to counter burnout and increase care. Transformative experiences as a movement artist and organizer in Brazil and in the United States serve as the basis for this MFA thesis project, which applies embodied lessons I learned in Brazil about how to disorient from U.S. hegemony and white supremacy in my home context in the United States. It is a proposal for movement-based relational organizing in response to the call from leaders of the Black freedom movements from the 1960s through to the present for white people to “organize your own.”

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Crumpler, Courtney (2021). Gathering my people: movement-based relational organizing to dismantle white supremacy. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23339.

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